Instead of doing more during a crisis period, give yourself permission to feel better during times of adversity.
Recently we conducted a survey, asking people to describe how they were feeling today using one word. A resounding amount of people responded with the word ‘DONE.’ People have had enough. As a collective, we have all experienced varying degrees of micro and macro traumas since March 2020. We are permanently changed from living during COVID-19.
We are seeing educators, health practitioners, and families pitted against one another. The divides around ideas, beliefs, values, and actions have become expansive. We are weary, wobbly, and discouraged. The feelings of numbness and hopelessness are a result from direct and indirect exposure to pain, suffering and uncertainty. It is hard to hold hope after such a long change season. And what is exasperating our collective weariness is being told that personal resiliency and self-care is the remedy.
Band-Aids on Bullet Wounds
Telling someone to be resilient or self-care themselves back to good when the world is on fire is like putting a band-aid on a bullet hole. It might stop the bleed for a millisecond, but the injury needs a proper intervention. As a scholar of resiliency and wellness, I am deeply concerned with how resiliency and wellness are being weaponized.
Amid systems of corruption and deconstruction, plus social injustices, telling people to just be more resilient or up their self-care is cruel. The reality is that organizations, systems, and companies need also carry some responsibility in addressing the demands on their people. The demands are rising, and our supply of self-care is not proportionate. Professional care is also needed. Self-care is what we bring. Professional care is what an organization can do to mediate and address the stressors (more to come on that topic soon.)
The Pace of Crisis Living Comes at a Cost
We have experienced over 600 consecutive days of a crisis, yet many of our professional and personal roles and responsibilities still have us in the early crisis pace and mode. In the immediate aftermath of a crisis, people are on high-alert; change and responsive action are required. We are not future-focused. We are surviving at the moment and trying everything to minimize the blast radius. With all that is being asked of us, our plates are broken from the weight of everything, and now the platter we are balancing is starting to overflow too.
We have moved from juggling watermelons blindfolded to juggling chainsaws on fire. I recently commented in a presentation that I feel as though I have brought a fruit roll-up to a knife fight. And in the weariness of our brains sizzling, our children missing key milestones, and being in another wave, WE feel we are not doing enough. We believe we are not resilient. Or maybe we are just tired of being resilient or living in systems that require this degree and scope of resiliency to cope.
The Perpetual Loop of Waiting until Monday to Start
As a behaviorist, I have a deep appreciation for the use of tools and strategies to help people adapt, cope, learn, and grow. I can also read the room, and I know the last thing people want right now is to do more. So, here is my invitation, let’s try to take small, consistent, and purposeful steps towards looking after ourselves as we continue to work on regulating a hurting and broken world. This is for you to start to hold hope again. To believe that we will weather this storm and look after ourselves in the process.
I invite you to give yourself permission to start feeling good again where you can, during this season of uncertainty and change, not waiting until afterwards to start getting back to those good feelings and thoughts. We are in a perpetual loop of waiting until Monday to feel better. This is a false promise we convince ourselves is true. Once I feel better, and the world is better, then I will be okay.
We must find a way to be okay DURING the change season. This is for you, not the establishment. And what is terrific about this truth is that when you start feeling better, our perspective shifts from threat-tunnel focus to broader views, increasing problem-solving, critical thinking and innovation. And that is the mindset we need to solve the problems that are plaguing us right now.
What are some of my program’s wise practices that can accomplish this? Let me tell you.
Tools for Those Who Are Tired of Tools
We are complex beings. We are feeling-factories who entertain over 65,000 thoughts per day. It takes a herculean effort to balance our emotional lives when we also factor in impulses, drives, lived experiences, pressures, a boss, with a side of occupational loneliness while also celebrating our familial roles, pets, oh and getting ready for the holidays! And yet, we still strive for a clean house too.
- Simply start where you can: I surrendered my need for a clean house to a clean kitchen, and it has done wonders! Who says this needs to look or be done this way? Challenge the belief that everything needs to be in order and perfect.
- Ask for help where you can. There is no shame in asking for help when the weight of your world cannot be supported with your two hands. When we are in a constant state of doing and giving, it may be hard to receive. Some may feel like it is easier just to do it yourself than explain to someone how to help. Pick your priorities and let the other things be good-enough-for now.
- Find micro-breaks where you can: There is no one coming to rescue us. We don’t need saving. We need 5 minutes in solitude to drink a hot coffee or one great podcast that helps name what we feel and inspires us to keep going. Take 5 when and wherever you can.
- Hold empathy for yourself as you would for others: As you show kindness and gratitude for others, please share that with yourself. It is by showing empathy and compassion for ourselves that it can then flow onto others. You are entitled to a bad day. That doesn’t make you an ungrateful person.
- Recognize dual truths: You can love your life and need to cry. You can love your job and fantasize about owning an animal sanctuary. You can love the holidays and be looking forward to January.
- Honor all the behaviors! Even those maladaptive behaviours that are helping you cope; Thank you Netflix, rompers, pets, chocolate, venting sessions with that dear friend and Ted Lasso. Every behaviour serves a purpose. You do not have to fix anything or everything today or ever. You don’t have to grow, heal, and achieve every second of your life.
- Go for the ONE thing that will make you feel like you are living your values. Maybe it is reading a story to a child. Or perhaps it is getting a gift to the local toy drive. Or making time to walk your dog. Each day make sure that ONE thing is getting done. Often our value-based behaviours fall to the bottom of the never-ending list.
- Honor how much you have gone through and grown through. List all the things that you have discovered and learned about yourself these last 20 months. Celebrate it all. Give yourself credit and recognition for what you have done and continue to do.
You may have also brought a fruit roll-up to this knife fight, but thankfully we are using our words, and it looks like we are going to walk away from this alive!
Described as one of the most sought-after, engaging, thought-provoking, and truly transformative international speakers and scholars in her field, Dr. Robyne is a multi-award-winning education and psychology instructor, author, and resiliency. Dr. Robyne’s maiden book, Calm Within The Storm: A Pathway to Everyday Resiliency, released in March 2021, is now in its third print as it makes its way into the hearts and practices of people around the globe.